It's been a wild year. Many pundits predicted the Dallas Mavericks would finish in the bottom third of the Western Conference. Many more predicted they would be in contention, but miss the playoffs. Who knew the Mavs would finish at least No. 7 in the West.
With an insane year come some incredible statistics. Here's some of the best ones, while keeping in mind that this is a playoff team:
1. Zaza Pachulia leads the team in free throw attempts
With a single game to go, Dirk Nowitzki has a reasonable chance of passing Zaza for the lead here (it's currently 274 to 270), but this one is hilarious considering as Zaza was an extreme fallback option for the Mavericks following the DeAndre Jordan reversal. Zaza has been on an up-and-down journey this season, playing more minutes than he has in any season since 2007-08, while starting the second most games in his career. Rick Carlisle overplayed Zaza, but he didn't have many options. The result is Pachulia taking the third most free throws in his 12 year career.
Pachulia's average is also 56th-best in the entire NBA. Kobe Bryant and Jeremy Lin averages more free throw attempts than his 3.7 per game. And it led the entire team.
2. Raymond Felton has played the most games and third most minutes
It's weird to think that when Raymond Felton joined the Mavericks at the start of the 2014-2015 season, he was considered an add in to make the trade for Tyson Chandler work, salary-wise. He was turning 30, coming off a felony plea deal, and had just posted the worst numbers of his career. Last season, Felton was an after thought, playing only 29 games with most of those coming late in the season.
This year he's been a rock Rick Carlisle can lean on, playing in 79 games and finishing third on the team in overall minutes played at 2,159. His statistics haven't always been ideal (particularly his rocky three point shooting at 28 percent), yet there have been numerous games this season where Felton's contributions have been vital. His 23 points in a shock win over Houston in November and his 14-assist game against Memphis in April come immediately to mind. This is a weird sentence, but where would the Mavericks be this season without Felton?
3. Wesley Matthews, coming off a torn Achilles tendon, led the Mavericks in minutes played
I remember scoffing when the Dallas Mavericks actually increased their contract offer to Wesley Matthews following the DeAndre Jordan saga. Giving *more* money to a guy who was coming off a career altering injury seemed insane. Heck, it was insane.
Then, reports came down that Wes Matthews would start the regular season. By the end of the first month, minutes restrictions were gone. Rick Carlisle used the occasional game to rest his recovering shooting guard, but Matthews quickly became the Iron Man for Dallas in a way I can't recall since the days of Michael Finley.
Were his stats very good? Not really; his shooting and scoring numbers were at or approaching career lows. He didn't fill the stat sheet in other ways either. And yet he was out there, night in and out, often guarding the best player on the opposing squad. There's no way to measure heart or hustle in the analytic NBA, but the Dallas Mavericks would not be whole without Wes Matthews.
4. Dirk Nowitzki led the team in blocks
The Berlin Wall, they call him. The great defender of the rim and protector of the paint. That's Dirk Nowitzki.
Wait, no it isn't. And yet, Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas in blocks by a wide margin with 52. Zaza, who played a similar number of minutes when compared to Dirk and played at the rim a lot more, posted 22 blocks all season. Sure, JaVale McGee had 26 and Dwight Powell had 24, but neither of them could contribute on a regular basis. Late season salvation Salah Mejri had 36 in his brief stint, but this season the blocks title goes to that supposedly soft European. Let's watch him block Jeff Withey one more time:
5. David Lee finished the season with an absurd PER rating of 24.2
PER is the ESPN's player efficiency rating. Lee, who played 30 games with Boston before getting traded to the Mavericks, has been shockingly good during his brief stint in Dallas. Many would say this rating shines a light on the problems with this particular measurement, but it's pretty funny that a player who couldn't get consistent minutes in Boston is somehow a key cog for the Mavericks. Is he as good as this number? Of course not, but he's helped and that's what matters.
Making the playoffs this year, with this team, is an act of will, skill, luck, and absurdity. Rick Carlisle's one of the few men in the world who could coax a season long performance out of such a hodge-podge collection of talent. These stats are just one window into a season we'll be talking about for years.
Shout out to Nick Roth (@NickPRoth) for some of the research in this piece.